Supreme Court Rejects Former New Mexico Official Banned After Jan. 6 Riot

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed an appeal by a former New Mexico state official barred from office after he was involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol Building.

Former Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin, a cowboy pastor whose claim to fame was endorsing former President Donald Trump with several horseback caravans, is a former Otero County commissioner and the only elected official barred from office under the “insurrection” provision of the 14th Amendment, the Associated Press reported.

During a 2022 trial in a state district court, Griffin became the first individual in over a century to be disqualified from office under a provision of the 14th Amendment aimed at preventing former Confederates from holding government positions after the Civil War.

Despite the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that states cannot prevent Trump or other federal office candidates from appearing on the ballot, the justices clarified that distinct rules apply to state and local candidates, the AP report noted.

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“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the justices wrote in an opinion that was not signed.

The AP added: “Griffin, a Republican, was convicted in federal court of entering a restricted area on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 and received a 14-day prison sentence. He served time following his arrest in Washington after returning there to protest Biden’s inauguration in 2021, which reduced the sentence. That conviction is under appeal. Griffin contends that he entered the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6 without recognizing that it had been designated as a restricted area and that he attempted to lead a crowd in prayer using a bullhorn, without engaging in violence.”

The high court’s ruling regarding Trump struck down a decision by the Colorado Supreme Court to remove him from the 2024 presidential ballot. That decision also halted efforts in several other states to remove Trump under the ‘insurrection’ clause, though he’s never been charged with that crime much less convicted of it.

Meanwhile, the nation’s highest court has agreed to hear a couple of cases during its current term that have the potential to dramatically alter the power and authority of the Executive Branch, which would effectively change how administrations govern, according to a constitutional expert.

Specifically, decisions in the cases could substantially change how federal agencies are permitted to interpret laws passed by Congress by dramatically reigning in their ability to issue rules that have the binding effect of legislation, writes Thomas M. Boyd, a former US assistant attorney general who served under President Ronald Reagan.

The court’s rulings could very well end a four-decade “constitutional revolution” that began during Reagan’s administration.

According to a column by Boyd, Justice John Paul Stephens’ opinion in the Chevron U.S.A. v. National Resources Defense Council case in 1984, midway through Reagan’s two terms, was the beginning of what legal scholar Gary Lawson would later describe as “nothing less than a bloodless constitutional revolution.”

The ruling fundamentally altered the way federal agencies could interpret laws they considered to be “ambiguous.” Following Stephens’ decision, subsequent presidential administrations utilized it to enact policies that effectively functioned as laws, often deviating from the exact wording of the legislation passed by Congress, Boyd pointed out.

“At long last, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that may signal the beginning of the end to that revolution,” Boyd wrote in his column for the New York Post.

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Boyd noted that Article I of the Constitution says explicitly, “All legislative power herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States”—not federal regulatory agencies.

However, he adds, Justice Stephens’ opinion found that “agenc[ies] may . . . properly rely upon the incumbent administration’s views of wise policy” in “reasonably” defining statutory ambiguities.

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